Strange one this. Hirst introduces it as being something from his never quite got round to finishing it pile of scripts, dusted off to give a pestering Rob Wells something to draw since Hirst didn’t have a PJANG script for the artist. So it comes off in a way as a reject pile thing. And nothing could be further from the experience of the end product I read.
This is a clever, quirky bit of superhero stuff. Well, that’s superhero as in your good, old fashioned, British superhero and frankly embarrassed to be so. Because lets face it, in Britain, superpowers wouldn’t be seen as gifts, that’s an American thing, land of the free, home of the brave etc etc.
No, we’d be a bit embarrassed by them, want rid of them, off to see a doctor about the things, and the bloody Daily Mail would end up accusing us of cheating on Incapacity Benefit or something like that. Especially if those super-powers were a little second-rate. We’re not taking Superman and Wonder-Woman here, we’re talking “group of bizarre weirdo people with powers that wouldn’t get them through the tradesman’s entrance at Justice league HQ”. Like Viral Mal here:
All he wants is a bit of peace and quiet, and he’s come from the States just to escape the whole big superhero thing.
But despite a sense of keeping your head down pervading these Brit based super-powered people, the government knows it might be handy to keep a few around, for those… weirder cases. And that’s where D.O.T.P. comes in. And as the operatives here find out, sometimes the D.O.T.P. don’t take no for an answer.
So, that’s the yank hiding out cos his powers really do make people sick; Viral Mal. Then we have the clock clutching shy precog Karine, who really just feels depressed and a bit embarrassed by the whole seeing the future thing …. and then we have the rather pushy, rather obnoxious boss; Lisa Cole – director of the D.O.T.P.
Once the intros are all done, it’s into the first “mission”, and just as the title tells us, the villain is a little bit silly, a little bit sub-standard, a little bit…. well, here, see for yourself:
Yes, the big bloke is the one covering the others in fat. Yes, it’s fat, get your minds out of the gutter. He’s another Peculiar, with the power it seems to trigger heart attacks in people by producing lots and lots of artery choking trans-fat. How he got his powers, and why he’s holed-up in the corporate HQ of a big food company – that’s one for next issue. And we may be down a member of the D.O.T.P. by then – Hirst does know how to end on a good old-fashioned, well set-up cliffhanger after all.
And more than the ending, Hirst’s writing here is typically clever and quirky. There’s a flow, a feel of natural storytelling here, and it all positively bounces along; the intro, the recruitment, the threat, the villain of the piece brought on, the conclusion, all handled proficiently, neatly, smartly. Most of all it’s just enjoyable. A quick read, but most of that is down to the easy style that Hirst exhibits here.
And Rob Wells is a big part of that as well. I’d previously seen him at work on his own gag strips, and chapters in Hirst’s other clever and fun book Too Much Sex And Violence. But this was my first time seeing him do a whole story, and he handles it damn well. Like Hirst’s storytelling, he keeps everything going along fast and with some style.
It’s a fine little comic, neatly done, interesting, silly and well worth your time. You can buy Department Of The Peculiar Issue 1 from Rol Hirst’s webstore and see the first 5 pages of this issue as a special preview here at the FPI Blog.